Baby GERD (Acid Reflux) Symptoms and Treatment
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, is often considered an adult condition. However, infants and children can suffer from GERD as well. In fact, it is estimated that around 50% of infants have mild to severe acid reflux. It is also estimated that around 85% of premature infants have some form of acid reflux.
GERD in infants is often misdiagnosed. This is due to, in part, the fact that few people – including doctors – consider the presence of GERD in a baby. It is also due to the fact that the baby cannot articulate where they are hurting or why. It is because of the frequent misdiagnosis that you, as a parent, should be aware and conscious of the symptoms of infant GERD as well as the treatment methods that may be used. By doing this, you can help your child manage, heal from or cope with their acid reflux disease.
Symptoms of GERD in Infants
Infants generally cry when they are in pain and this is the most common symptom of GERD. When an infant cries from GERD pain, it is generally sudden and it can closely resemble the cry that an infant might make if they have colic. This is one of the barriers to effective diagnosis of GERD in infants.
Other symptoms can include irritability, trouble sleeping or frequent night time waking, arching of the neck or back during or after feeding, frequent ear infections, wheezing, sinus congestion, excessive drooling, spitting up frequently, vomiting, wet burps, frequent hiccups, anemia, aversion to food, food refusal or small meals, sinus infections, apnea, asthma, pneumonia, intentional gagging with fingers or fist, weight loss, failure to thrive, poor weight gain, frequent red throat without infection, chronic hoarseness, dental erosion and bad breath.
Infants with GERD do not need to display all symptoms to have GERD. One or more symptoms can be an indicator of GERD, particularly if the symptoms persist. If you notice any of these symptoms in your infant and they do not subside within a few days, you should contact your child’s pediatrician.
Lifestyle Changes for Infant GERD
Lifestyle changes are usually the first plan of action when treating an infant with GERD. While some of the natural treatments may seem a little inconvenient, they often lead to a happier baby which means that you will spend less time consoling a cranky, fussy baby.
Breastfeeding is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for at least the first six months of life. Breastfeeding is also extremely beneficial for babies with GERD. This is because breast milk is digested faster and easier by babies than formula. If you cannot breastfeed, then you should choose an infant formula that is not milk based. A wide variety of formula options now exist and you should try different formula options until you find one that works best.
You may also find that your baby responds well to thickening of their liquid feedings. This is done by adding a small amount of infant cereal to breast milk or formula. Thickening helps by adding more weight to the liquid feeding, preventing it from sloshing around in the stomach as much and making it harder for it to come back up through the esophagus. It can also add extra calories for babies that are having a hard time gaining weight because of their GERD. Before using this treatment option, however, you should talk to your child’s pediatrician.
Babies with GERD should be propped up for at least 30 minutes after feeding. This will ensure that food has time to digest before you lay them down. This will reduce the severity and occurrence of food regurgitation.
Restrictive clothing and car seats that often causes your baby to slouch should be avoided. Restrictive clothing can put unnecessary pressure on the stomach and aggravate GERD. Slouching can also place pressure on the stomach.
You are also likely to find that your baby suffers less if you hold them more often. Studies have shown that infants that are held more often cry less. Less crying means that there is less air in the stomach which can help to reduce GERD symptoms.
Sleeping positions of infants can also be changed. Infants with GERD often sleep better when they are propped up. They may also enjoy sleeping on their tummies but this sleeping position increases the risk to SIDS. Infants with GERD are already at a higher risk for SIDS. You should talk to your child’s doctor before placing them in any position other than a supine (back) position to sleep.
Infant massage is often soothing for baby and it can help move food through the digestive system. To perform an infant massage, use your hand to gently rub in a clockwise position on their belly. You should not perform this shortly after eating since it may cause reflux.